Photo: Maureen Viljoen
It is nearly spring in Cape Town. It creeps in on delicate green feet. My mother sent me this picture and wrote: "Still trying to do what you do. Lachenalias, Life from Stone s/b and parsley, rocket and pak choi salad (all from garden). A beautiful day after very cold weather, snow on Table Mountain, heavy on other mountains, frost on lawn this morning - then cloudless blue sky all day."
Still trying to do what I do?
You have it all wrong, Mommy. I am still trying to do what you do! I know no one else who can produce a plate or a tableful of food as good looking, delicious and apparently effortless as you can. And I include many very fancy restaurants in that 'no one'. As for salads, rarely does anyone's vinaigrette come close, and if they do, my eyes open wide and I say, This salad is just as good as my mother's!
And perhaps sometimes it is effortless, like when you throw together a lunch plate for yourself every day, or for us if we are there. And occasionally I say, no don't worry, I'll do my own, and there I am beside you making my own plateful with the same ingredients - some leaves, some bread, some this, some that, and yours always, always looks better and is the one that I really want. I look at it with desire and I look at mine, and we laugh.
And sometimes the effortlessness is a complete illusion, because days and days have been spent in the kitchen to produce silky soups, wobbly terrines, salads like gardens, marinated fishes and long-cooked lambs.
I miss you, and love you, and most of what I do is because you showed me how.
I wish I had been there, too.